“Nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain.”
~Henry David Thoreau
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After several troubled months, I found myself walking down the main street of a small town in Illinois, a short distance from the Mississippi River and the Gateway To The West. Edwardsville is a quiet place, iconic, like the “everytown” you see in movies depicting life in the 1950s, where the homes are perpetually decorated for the Forth of July. Green grass and cobblestones, it’s one of the oldest towns in the Illinois territory, and it’s just small enough that the streets aren’t overrun with strip malls; the roadways are festooned with vintage neon signs, there’s an old single-screen theater, local brewpubs, and weathered bricks wrapped around quaint coffee shops and pizzerias.
I walked in and around the town with my headphones on, piping-in a soundtrack to my walkabout. Through the residential streets and small parks, up into downtown, I felt – for the first time in months – safe and secure, shielded from the chaos that so often dominates our lives. Sure, the fantasy ended and the business of life had to keep plunging forward, but for a few hours I was able to let my thoughts wander. I watched schoolchildren playing outside, contractors mixing cement outside of an historic storefront, delivery trucks pouring into the alley behind the pizzeria to unload fresh tomatoes and cheese. Walking around the courthouse, snapping shots of bees rolling around in the pollen in the rose garden, watching birds drinking from the fountain in the plaza, I found myself smiling; it had been a long time.
Cleaning things out today, sifting through holiday sweaters and stacking greeting cards for safe keeping, I picked up a book I had been reading while I was in Illinois, visiting my sister. I thumbed through it and found this leaf; I had completely forgotten about it. While walking around, camera in hand and headphones in, I knelt down and picked it up, admiring it’s colors, noticing that the whole sidewalk was littered with bright color. I unzipped my backpack and pressed it between a couple of pages of my book, and then I got back to walking down the row. I don’t know why I did that. I don’t know what I would be saving it for.
But I found it today, and I was reminded of my walk, of that first moment of genuine peace after several months of conflict. I suppose I saved it so that I could find it again, and now I’m sharing it with you.